This Saturday sees AIB League Division 1A swing back into action for its first full round of matches since January 23. Clontarf and Cork Con clash in a repeat of last year’s semi-final, leaders Shannon host fifth-placed Blackrock, while fellow play-off hopefuls Dolphin and St. Mary’s both have must-win home games.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 20
CLONTARF (7th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (2nd), Castle Avenue, 2.30pm
AIB League Season’s Form – Clontarf: LLWWLWLWLL; Cork Constitution: LWLWWWWWD
AIB League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: Martin Dufficy 60; Tries: Michael Keating 4; Cork Constitution: Points: Scott Deasy 56; Tries: Richie Lane 5
Preview: Munster have not exactly done AIB Cup champions Cork Constitution any favours by the inclusion of Duncan Williams. Scott Deasy, Tom Gleeson and Billy Holland on their bench for the Magners League clash with Edinburgh.
Then again, a key to Cork Con’s success all season has been their strength in depth. While Brian Walsh’s men still remain favourites to win this one, it may not be as straightforward as it seems.
Bernard Jackman’s Clontarf side are battling for survival, lying second from bottom of the table. They desperately need a victory, but will clearly need to improve hugely from their last outing against Dolphin, particularly in the scrum.
Last Season’s Meetings – Saturday, March 7, 2009: Cork Constitution 17 Clontarf 13, Temple Hill; Semi-Final: Saturday, April 25, 2009: Cork Constitution 6 Clontarf 25, Temple Hill
This Season’s First Meeting – Saturday, November 14, 2009: Cork Constitution 21 Clontarf 18, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win by 6-10 points
DOLPHIN (3rd) v GARRYOWEN (6th), Musgrave Park, 2.30pm
AIB League Season’s Form – Dolphin: WWWLLWLWWL; Garryowen: WLLLLWWDW
AIB League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 54; Tries: Barry Keeshan, Barry O’Mahony, James Coughlan, Paul Hurley 2 each; Garryowen: Points: Conor Murray 54; Tries: Ronan O’Mahony 2
Preview: Dolphin will be seeking revenge after the disappointing 13-12 loss in the rearranged fixture between these two sides recently at Dooradoyle.
They still must be wondering just how they lost, given the circumstances which saw Garryowen experience all sort of injury problems in their front row and eventually finish with 14 men. From Garryowen’s point of view, it was a tremendous show of character.
The victory means that their recent improved run has brought them above Clontarf in the table. Some welcome news for third-placed Dolphin is the return after injury of their influential out-half and captain Barry Keeshan but back rower James Coughlan is required by Munster.
Last Season’s Meeting – Saturday, April 11, 2009: Dolphin 14 Garryowen 9, Musgrave Park
This Season’s First Meeting – Sunday, February 7, 2010: Garryowen 13 Dolphin 12, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win by 1-5 points
SHANNON (1st) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (5th), Coonagh, 2.30pm
AIB League Season’s Form – Shannon: LLLWWLWWWW; Blackrock College: WWWLLLLLW
AIB League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 68; Tries: Stephen Kelly 6; Blackrock College: Points: James Power 47; Tries: Andrew Conway 3
Preview: High-flying Shannon showed just how good they can be in their most recent victory over St. Mary’s College at Templeville Road. Their bonus point victory proved that, with or without their Munster contingent, they remain highly competitive.
If they play half as well at Coonagh on Saturday, it is going to be very difficult for Blackrock. On the previous occasion the sides met at Stradbrook, Shannon won 21-15 with Felix Jones making a big impact from full-back.
Jones will not be around for the rest of the season because of injury, while Donnacha Ryan is required by Munster, but Shannon are still going to be very strong. That said, they know they must not underestimate this Blackrock outfit, who can be very dangerous if they get any sort of possession.
Last Season’s Meeting – Saturday, October 4, 2008: Blackrock College 41 Shannon 27, Stradbrook
This Season’s First Meeting – Saturday, November 14, 2009: Blackrock College 15 Shannon 21, Stradbrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win by 1-5 points
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (4th) v UL BOHEMIANS (8th), Templeville Road, 2.30pm
AIB League Season’s Form – St. Mary’s College: WWWWLWLLLL; UL Bohemians: LLLLWWLLL
AIB League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Gavin Dunne 64; Tries: Robin Copeland 7; UL Bohemians: Points: Fergal Lawlor 19; Tries: Ed Torrie, Danny Riordan 3 each
Preview: St. Mary’s College will know better than anyone that they really have to get going, following a poor run which has seen them drop to fourth in the table.
But they did not play at all badly in their most recent defeat by Shannon. Their problem was that they did not convert pressure into scores, and Shannon took their chances brilliantly.
To come out of the game without even a losing bonus point must have been hugely disappointing. They are definitely capable of returning to winning form this weekend, but the fact that they lost 25-20 to UL Bohemians at Thomond Park back in November will tell them that absolutely nothing can be taken for granted.
Last Season’s Meeting – Saturday, December 6, 2008: St. Mary’s College 18 UL Bohemians 6, Templeville Road
This Season’s First Meeting – Saturday, November 14, 2009: UL Bohemians 25 St. Mary’s College 20, Thomond Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win by 6-10 points